Hours after launching a scathing attack on Israel, calling on Muslims to flood the Temple Mount in protest at the “occupation” of Jerusalem, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed ways to halt the so-called “judaization” of Jerusalem with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Meeting with Hamdallah in Istanbul Monday night, Erdogan “confirmed the necessity of unifying efforts to protect Jerusalem against attempts of judaization,” according to an official statement carried by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.
On Monday evening, Erdogan drew swift Israeli rebuke for a speech in which he called Israel “racist and discriminatory,” and said Muslims should visit Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount more often to support Palestinians.
“Each day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us,” he said, at the opening ceremony of the International Forum on al-Quds Waqf in Istanbul, Turkey’s Hurriyet news reported.
During the meeting between Erdogan and Hamdallah, the two discussed “ways to support Jerusalem,” and the Palestinian leader updated Erdogan on the latest “Israeli violations” and an ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners, according to a statement by Hamdallah’s office.
Erdogan said Muslim Turkey had a “historical responsibility” and was paying “huge attention to Jerusalem and to the struggle of Palestinians for justice,” ramping up efforts to make it a city of “security, independence and peace again,” according to the Ma’an report.
Israel rejects accusations it is attempting to judaize holy sites in Jerusalem and says the city remains open to all religions, maintaining a fragile status quo on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam.
Previous claims that Israel plans to allow Jewish prayer at the site, repeatedly denied by Israel, have led to bouts of violence.
Erdogan’s wading into the sensitive subject came a week before he is due to meet with US President Donald Trump, ahead of Trump’s visit to the region in a bid to jumpstart peace efforts.
Erdogan, whose talks with Trump are expected to center around tensions surrounding Syrian fighting, said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should take precedence.
“It is impossible to find a solution and peace in the region without finding a fair solution for the Palestinian cause first,” Erdogan said in the meeting with Hamdallah.
The Turkish president strongly criticized Israel, saying that “no country should be allowed to act above the law.” He said that any efforts at brokering a peace deal are doomed to fail “unless Israel is held accountable for its crimes.”
“Israel keeps getting away from punishment, which leads it to escalated aggression against Palestinians,” he said.
Those comments echoed his speech earlier in the day, which was seen as his harshest words against Israel since the two countries reconciled last year and restored diplomatic ties to ambassadorial level.
Israel reacted quickly and angrily to Erdogan‘s comments about Jerusalem, calling them “baseless slander.”
“Anyone who systemically violates human rights in their own country should not preach about morality to the only democracy in the region,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“Israel strictly adheres to protecting full freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians — and will continue to do so despite this baseless slander,” the statement said.
AFP contributed to this report.